A billion people from the developing world wanted to take teleportation booths to jobs in the United States.
As a lucky holder of a pase de un día, a daypass, Chalo had the opportunity, unless he overstayed his shift.
Or lost his daypass.
A Writers of the Future honorable mention
Sample of “Pase de un Día”
Pase de un Día
The only displacement booth in San Lorenzo stood between the town hall and the church, where Calle Benito Juárez ended at Calle Progresso. The sky was pale in the east, but the sun had not yet risen over the Sierra Madre, when Chalo ran his hand over sleeping Berto’s hair, kissed Adelina, and left their three-room house. Awakening birds chirped behind corrugated iron fences. Chalo’s stomach felt hollow. He ignored it. Once he got to work, he would scavenge his morning meal from the previous day’s pastries in the break room. His family needed the pesos he would save by doing so.
A few blocks from the displacement booth, he stopped at an intersection, looked left and right, and started across. A car horn blared, startling him, and he jumped back toward the corner. A big, old pickup running on the battery of its hybrid engine had come up behind him and now turned left across his path. The window was down and the driver showed a pudgy face with a scraggly mustache and a medium complexion. “Fucking Indian, you’re so short I almost hit you!” The pickup’s gasoline engine kicked in and the mestizo roared away, flinging pebbles of crumbling asphalt from his rear tires.
For a moment, a tiny flame of rage burned in Chalo’s chest, and he hunched his shoulders and head over it. But rage at the mestizo would not build a better life for his son. He took a deep breath to snuff the smoldering emotion, then looked all ways before crossing the now-empty street.
Soon he passed the private school run by the gray-haired gringo couple. The gate stood ajar. From within came the sound of metal shutters rolling up and English spoken too fast for him to follow. “Aiden wants us to come for dinner Friday to meet Nadezhda,” said a woman’s voice.
Friday. Did she ask her husband about the deposit deadline at the end of next week? Chalo counted days and hours and his wage, then multiplied them together. He would work every day but Sunday. He would have enough to pay the deposit and get Berto away from the incompetent teacher who slept all day at the government school. The Virgin had blessed Chalo with a son of great intelligence, but her blessing demanded Chalo provide Berto with every possible chance for his intelligence to thrive.
The sun had crested the Sierra Madre, but the church’s shadow still covered the displacement booth when he arrived. The booth was a glass cylinder big enough for a family to stand together. Its door showed the laser-etched logo of Teletransportes Mexicanos. A ring of lights around the cylinder’s top glowed green. When he opened the door, it swung so easily it seemed to push itself against his hand.
He took his trifold wallet from the inner pocket of his jacket. Old when Adelina had bought it at a flea market, the wallet’s folds showed years of wear and the bottoms of the inner slots had long ago split, revealing the edges of his debit card and family photos. Mounted on the inner wall of the booth, opposite the door, were a card reader and a touchscreen. Chalo swiped his debit card and alphanumeric buttons appeared.
With one finger, he tapped out u-s-d-a-y-p-a-s-s, then Introducir. The next screen asked him to confirm the address and the fee. He touched Sí.
He flicked into another booth, twin to the first. He turned and stepped out into a broad, high-ceilinged room, crowded with people and echoing with a babel of voices. This place still made him nervous—he widened his eyes and jerked his head—but he had been through here a few days now and knew the routine. He’d flicked into one of a row of twenty booths standing along what guessed was the south wall. Five queues snaked around plastic railings and aimed for a far wall dominated by an immense United States flag. He went to the nearest queue and shuffled forward.
Most of the people around him were mestizos, with a few blacks and fewer Indians. Regardless of race, many were dressed, like him, in dark trousers and matching tee shirts bearing restaurant logos stitched on the front and displacement booth addresses printed across the back. Chalo heard multiple Spanish dialects; a nasal language that almost sounded like Spanish; and lilting English from some of the blacks. The languages of the other Indians were completely unintelligible. Did everyone from all the countries of the Americas who traveled to the United States on the pase de un día, the day pass, come through this border station?
When he was third in line from the checkpoint, Chalo slid his day pass from his wallet. The day pass’ white face and red and blue accents were the only things to distinguish it from his debit card. Its English words made little sense to him–he could pick out United States, but little else. His printed name seemed to shift in three dimensions when he wiggled the card.
In front of him, a mestiza with a long nose, bunned hair, and a buttoned gray jacket turned her left shoulder toward the turnstile’s scanner. You should consider an implant instead of the card, the gringo in the consular office had told him in a formal Mexico City accent. It’s more secure.
Chalo had disregarded his words. If the consular official wanted him to